Today is the day that a new episode of Ted Lasso would be airing if Ted Lasso hadn't (presumably) ended. The show has been so transformative towards my love of television, that I thought I might reflect on it for a minute so I can get it out of my blogging habit.
The year is not even half over, but I'm fairly comfortable saying that the third (and final?) season of Ted Lasso will top my list (yet again) despite being a bit of a mess. But, maybe as time goes on, it will have to battle it out with Jury Duty, Mrs. Davis, and Poker Face for the top spot. I dunno. I'll probably have to watch through a couple more times to know for sure.
The first season of Ted Lasso is flawless. Each and every episode faithfully pushes through a "narrative of nice" without ever becoming cynical about it. That alone is a massive achievement, even though it strayed into being overly-sweet and saccharine more than a few times. Furthermore, we get a conclusion that works along with a nice lead-in to the next season, which probably wasn't guaranteed at the time they filmed it. Talk about a massive achievement!
To me, the second season was almost as good as the first (even though the first two episodes felt a bit unsteady). And yet... I've read many reviews panning it. There were some fans of the show that roundly hated what it became the second time around. And a lot of that had to do with their inability to invest in Beard After Hours (Episode 09), which interrupted the season at a bit of a crucial moment. Meanwhile I'm thinking "YES! IT INTERRUPTED THE SEASON... THAT WAS THE WHOLE POINT OF IT EXISTING!" and loved every minute of it. It was so very, very smart... both in purpose and execution. The previous episode had one of the most emotional moments of the entire series where Jamie's dad burst into the locker room and just wrecked his son. It was an abuse that was painful to watch. All the other players in the locker room were mortified and some looked away. It was unbearable. Jamie lost everything in that moment. But then, unexpectedly, Roy Kent approaches and... gives him a hug? And the moment just ruined me. Because as Roy approaches him, Jamie flinches just a bit. He was at his lowest point and was only expecting things to get worse. It was a masterful performance by Phil Dunster that took his character in an entirely new direction. It was the middle of a wide-reaching arc for Jamie that was concluded in the final episode in the best way possible...
In lesser hands, this scene could have been manipulative and awful. But the performances by Phil Dunsert, Brett Goldstein, and Kieran O'Brien (because, let's face it... the guy may have made you hate Jamie's dad, but his bigger accomplishment was being so awful that you felt sympathy for Jamie Tartt!). And that summed up the second season for me. Scenes that should have been a mess, but was elevated because the actors were too good to let them fail. And then we got Dr. Sharon Fieldstone, who ended up being the point upon which the entire season revolved, and Sarah Niles did not falter. How they managed to cast a character so perfectly (again!) is magic to me. If there was a fatal flaw, it happened at the end with Nate's betrayal. It was a wacky, inexplicable pivot out of nowhere and made no sense at all. I fail to see how somebody who was finally seen could ever betray Ted... especially over the trivial and nonsensical reasons that were provided. It was just so bizarre. It was as if the show worked overtime to create a villain where one just wasn't needed.
If the second season was messy but ultimately salvaged, the third was even messier and meandered into territory that couldn't be salvaged. Nate's entire redemption arc made zero sense. All the players hating him and then inexplicably wanting him back was idiotic. And they went way too far for him to ever be redeemable... even though they shoehorned it in anyway. I hated that. There was no redemption possible for Nate in such a short period of time, and having him return to Richmond first as kitman assistant... then as a frickin' coach?? WTF? But even worse was Keeley's breakup with Roy. Why? What purpose was it when the two of them together provided such wonderful material to draw from? And to add insult to injury, they wheeled in "Jack" so Keeley could have a same-sex relationship that went nowhere and ended so very badly. At least they left things with Jamie and Roy open-ended so they didn't also fall into the trope of having Keeley "needing a man to be complete" which would have been so much worse. These two major plots were nothing but distraction from moments that could have been spent in a much more productive way. But there were many great moments that overshadowed the bad. The setup to Ted leaving England was broadcast from miles away and didn't come out of nowhere... and it was delicately handled in a very real way. Colin coming out to his team was earned and not just slapped on his character. Rebecca finally finding somebody to share her life with had been treated as fate from the very beginning... so having the Dutch guy from earlier in the season pop up at the end so randomly was everything you'd hope for. Jamie, who had the most complete and satisfying character arc of anybody, had become a caring individual at peace with himself and others. We also got more Trent Crimm, who popped up at unexpected moments to provide insight or observation into what was happening in a way that was expertly woven into the story instead of being superfluous fluff. And then there were the many, many moments of brilliance that proved a show built around caring for others could actually work.
So, yeah, my favorite television series of all time. Without question. Nothing was ever going to live up to the incredible first season, and the following two really didn't. But they were a continuation of a story that I never wanted to end, and that was more than enough.
Here's hoping that we get a spin-off or three to fill the massive hole that has been vacated by Ted Lasso.